Sixty-one points from Game Week 6, rewarded for keeping some tangible faith with Alexander-Arnold as the City contingent in the side continue to generate points for fun. Mitrovic came in and did a job against Watford. An interesting week beckons this time round with the meeting of Chelsea and Liverpool. Hawkeye Sidekick is more hoping than optimistic at this stage.
Ederson is such a solid pick right now in the keeper position. The number of clean sheets alone so far this season has being impressive and his ability to launch swift counter attacks. Six points last week, hoping for more this weekend with the Brighton & Hove Albion visiting the Etihad.
The Chelsea and Liverpool player clash starts with the back line. Alexander-Arnold and Azpilicueta are in the back three, both players could have torrid afternoons given the pace and speed of the attacking units on display. I am not hopeful on either this week, grin and bear and hope neither player does not get booked (wishful thinking).
Vertonghen is hopefully the saving grace for the back three this weekend. A trip to Huddersfield, a clean sheet and perhaps a goal from a set piece would do nicely. Tottenham need a result after a torrid couple of weeks in the league; they should get the job done here against a Huddersfield Town side who are neither scoring enough or preventing goals defensively.
The midfield four again has a Chelsea player (Kante) and two Liverpool players (Mane and Salah). I am rather pessimistic that there will be a goal fest at the Bridge (hoping for it) but need to be realistic given the curse of the Sky Sports advert campaign.
Neves comes into the picture and it is a time for him to impress. Wolves play Southampton who look quite shaky as of late. Neves has to increase his attacking threat in the final third; hope (yet again) that the Portuguese midfielder will deliver a man of the match performance. Mark Hughes is under pressure at Southampton as it is and I think it intensifies after this fixture. Wolves if they have their shooting boots on could win well.
The front three are unchanged. My best mate Mitrovic scored against Watford but anyone else feeling that Mitrovic is going to do something stupid and get sent off. I cannot think like that in team selection so he retains his spot and a game against a vulnerable Everton outfit could see the Serbian striker score another goal.
Sergio Aguero is a points machine. He is having an outstanding season and that run of fantasy league points looks set to continue with the trip of Brighton & Hove Albion who will try to sit deep but think City are too slick in their passing. An early strike and BHA get opened up which will be music to the ears of Aguero.
Mr. Crystal Palace continues as the third striker. Zaha plays a Bournemouth side smarting from their 4-0 drubbing on the road to Burnley last weekend. MNF game for Zaha to flex the muscles and suspect that Palace will score a goal on the road and inevitably Zaha will be key from an attacking perspective.
Two interesting contests on the books for Friday night. Cardiff Blues fresh from their emphatic victory over Munster Rugby last week entertain the Toyota Cheetahs who will hope to continue their performance from last week when they drew 39-39 each to Ulster Rugby. Edinburgh Rugby are again faced with a must win game at home, this time they face a Benetton Rugby side who have won plenty of plaudits for their performances this season. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action.
Last week was a keynote victory for Cardiff Blues. It was a must win game for the Welsh side and they produced a superb cohesive performance to dismantle Munster Rugby. All units functioned so well and the threat with ball in hand was incredible throughout which resulted in a thoroughly deserved bonus point try victory.
The keyword this week is consistency. Can Cardiff Blues continue to deliver a performance like last week? Can Cardiff Blues continue to play on the front foot? Can Cardiff Blues’ back row unit continue to impress in the breakdown area like last week? The answers to these questions will be key to determining whether Toyota Cheetahs have any realistic chance of securing anything from the contest.
Cardiff Blues team news sees three personnel changes in the pack. Scott Andrews (prop), Rory Thornton (lock) and Olly Robinson (back row) all come into the side. Turnbull slots into the eight channel to replace Nick Williams who enjoyed his outing against Munster Rugby no end last week.
Toyota Cheetahs come into the game on the back of an exciting 39-39 draw against Ulster Rugby. They could have won this contest only for a last gasp Henry Speight try, converted by Billy Burns to salvage a draw for the Irish province. There were plenty of positives for Toyota Cheetahs last week; several excellent phases of play and the pack unit look more cohesive than previous weeks. Defensively, there are still questions.
Verdict: Cardiff Blues (BP Win)
Cardiff Blues need to keep momentum and the exciting back line named means that Toyota Cheetahs are going to be challenged on the outside channels. Toyota Cheetahs will look to run their expansive game as well but I think Cardiff Blues with Turnbull, Anscombe, Halaholo and Lane should have too much for their visitors particularly in the third / fourth quarters. Cardiff with another home BP win.
The perils of a slow start to the season sees Edinburgh Rugby in a second successive must win home game. Scratch the result last weekend; the Leinster Rugby juggernaut in the RDS is a mission impossible for most sides this season so Richard Cockerill and management wisely rested keynote first team starters for this fixture.
Edinburgh Rugby last weekend did compete well against Leinster Rugby; competed well in the breakdown and their ability to retain possession worked the Leinster Rugby tackle count high but they were ultimately undone by a red card and the reigning European Club kingpins took advantage.
Edinburgh Rugby have freshened up their side and familiar names feature. Blair Kinghorn, Matt Scott and Henry Pyrgos are all back. Simon Hickey returns at fly-half at stand-off. The pack sees recalls for Stuart McInally (hooker), WP Nel (prop), Grant Gilchrist (lock), Hamish Watson (back row) and Bill Mata (eight) in the back row unit. Pretty much the first team out here and a win is the objective.
Personnel aplenty for Benetton Rugby too. The back three has changed with Jayden Hayward (full back) and wings Ratuva Tavuyara / Luca Sperandio all starting. The three quarters sees Tommaso Iannone and Luca Morisi feature with Dewaldt Duvenage (scrum-half) and Tommaso Allan (fly-half) as half backs.
Marco Riccioni (prop) comes into the front row as Dean Budd and Marco Fuser come into the second row. Robert Barbieri (eight) comes into the starting lineup. Plenty of switches and Benetton Rugby are looking for a result this weekend.
Verdict: Edinburgh Rugby
Dry conditions should see both sides look to become expansive. The pack battle edge goes to Edinburgh with the likes of McInally, Toolis and Gilchrist in the mix. Edinburgh Rugby need to be incredibly accurate tomorrow night, otherwise Benetton Rugby have shown this season they have the back field ability to cut open sides apart in open play.
Considering both sides rested marquee names last week, expecting a close contest here and Edinburgh Rugby should edge this but if they leave points on the pitch like they did against Connacht Rugby in round three, Benetton Rugby could be in prime position for another marquee win. However, Richard Cockerill’s side get the nod for me, it is a must win; otherwise the Guinness Pro 14 season will have taken a massive nosedive.
Round Four saw a mixed bag for the Irish provinces. Munster Rugby had another road trip from hell losing heavily to Cardiff Blues. Ulster Rugby had to score a last gasp try to secure a share of the spoils against Toyota Cheetahs. Connacht Rugby and Leinster Rugby had excellent wins and the statistics produced for the round are dominated by these two teams ahead of a mouthwatering fixture between the two Irish provinces next weekend.
Tiernan O’Halloran had a superb game against the Scarlets and this statistic shows the work rate and creativity to establish line breaks during the fixture. James Lowe and Garry Ringrose were superb for Leinster Rugby against Edinburgh. Joey Carbery’s strong numbers here came from the opening period of their loss to Cardiff Blues; his influence in the second half waned as Munster Rugby performance deteriorated rapidly.
Meters Per Carry
Darren Cave leads this statistics for the round after several keynote carries against the Toyota Cheetahs. Darren Sweetnam on limited possession against Cardiff Blues again shone with ball in hand, interesting to see how Munster Rugby address this issue in the coming weeks.
Luke McGrath topped the number of passes statistic for the Irish provinces in round five; his eighty-six passes beating that of Kieran Marmion who also had a strong performance. Note on Denis Buckley, the Connacht prop was prominent in several passing moves and his fifteen passes is an excellent return.
Leinster Rugby video analysis will not dwelling on the tackles made statistics; immense statistics from round five with the tackle machine Josh van der Flier leading the way with a whooping twenty-three tackles. Cloete, Kleyn and Sherry feature for Munster which is an indication of the struggles that the side had against a lively Cardiff Blues outfit.
Tiernan O’Halloran was prominent in all good attacking things that Connacht Rugby did in their win over Scarlets. O’Halloran consistently collected Scarlets aerial exit ball and ran intelligently either into space or present the ball to team mates efficiently. James Lowe and Bundee Aki had superb cameos; their ball carry count is indicative of this.
The round robin group stage phase of the Limerick SHC is now in the books and we now know who has their ticket to the quarter and semi-finals. An interesting weekend of results.
Group 1: Na Piarsaigh / Doon into last four
Before this final round of fixtures, Na Piarsaigh were destined to advance to the semi-final round (only for a bizarre set of results). Their performance against Patrickswell today was emphatic at the Gaelic Grounds and it will take an exceptional team to dethrone the Caherdavin club this year.
Peter Casey’s early goal after a minute set the tone as Shane Dowling, Casey and the Dempsey brothers were to the fore. Patrickswell tried hard but Na Piarsaigh’s precision passing and support running lines were too much at times for an over worked Patrickswell defense.
Aaron Gillane’s late goal put respectability to the scoreboard but ‘Well will know that they need to improve significantly in the quarter final to be a serious threat for the remainder of the championship. The middle third at times was routed which was a surprise considering the personnel on show.
Na Piarsaigh were in full control and the 1-21 to 1-11 scoreline was the least that they deserved.
While Adare and Ballybrown drew 3-17 each at Claughaun to consign Ballybrown to Group 2 next season, the stage was set for Kilmallock and Doon to face off with the winner advancing to the semi-final berth. The pregame thoughts were that Kilmallock would edge the contest but Doon have the ability of tearing up the form book and so it proved here.
Barry Murphy was the fulcrum for Doon today as his opening half 0-6 point haul gave Doon the platform to keep in touch with the South Limerick outfit. In the second half, Doon strode clear with Dean Coleman particularly impressive. Kilmallock were not cohesive in their distribution and their work rate was a clear second to Doon where Richie English was excellent. Doon won 0-17 to 0-10.
After such an encouraging performance against Na Piarsaigh a couple of weeks ago, Kilmallock have questions to answer. A quarter final fixture to try and restore confidence but this performance was a pale shadow to a a couple of weeks ago. Advantage Na Piarsaigh in this championship race.
Group 2: Murroe Boher / South Liberties advance
I did not think that Murroe Boher or South Liberties would be caught today but Cappamore nearly ripped the script apart with a late salvo against South Liberties who were glad to hear the final whistle at the death. It looked pretty straightforward for South Liberties in the opening period as Barry Nash and Brian Ryan were keeping the scoreboard operator in regular action.
However, Cappamore knowing that a loss would consign them to intermediate hurling next season launched a brave last quarter push; reducing the arrears to a point, causing frayed nerves in the Liberties camp. Cappamore are relegated and they will rue their third quarter performance against Knockainey which lost them the game and ultimately their spot in the senior next season. 1-12 to 1-11.
South Liberties advance to the quarter-finals and their performance today was particularly nervy in the second half; they need to improve considerably for a quarter-final tussle with Patrickswell. A free hit for them in this encounter and hopefully they can bring the work rate and intensity to unsettle the ‘Well to make this fixture competitive.
Murroe Boher were comfortable in their five point win to Knockainey. The game was put to bed in the opening quarter as the East Limerick side were twelve points up after twelve minutes. Seanie Tobin and Mike Ryan were excellent for Murroe Boher who won (2-16 to 2-11).
The East Limerick will look forward to a free hit against Kilmallock in the quarter final; no pressure on them and their side has an excellent work ethic, well organized and potent attacking inside options. Could they cause an upset?
Ahane and Monaleen in Cappamore on Sunday afternoon was a game which lacked intensity for long periods. The near neighbors were tit for tat throughout. Ahane’s overly relied on Tom Morrissey who scored eight out of Ahane’s ten points in the opening period.
Monaleen won the game late on with a fine score from David Moloney and they just about edged the encounter by a point (1-15 to 0-17); were more solid in key areas with Lyons and LaTouche-Cosgrave providing key cameos. Ahane have struggled in attack this season with their points average (only Cappamore scored less).
For Monaleen and Ahane, it is the end of the road for this year’s championship. Monaleen will rue the draw against Cappamore in the opening round. Ahane were competitive in all games but that lack of attacking cutting edge was missing at key parts. An off-season to see where improvements can be made.
It may be only mid-September but you got the sense at full time here in the Sportsgrounds that this was a massively significant result not just for the Connacht Rugby team and management but also for the fan base who can look with renewed optimism for the rest of the season.
Connacht Rugby have being competitive in their opening three league fixtures, a win over Zebre Rugby at home in round two was a solid display but this fixture against Scarlets was one where Connacht Rugby fans had highlighted early doors, hoping that a victory would ensue against one of the ‘big’ teams in this competition.
The tone was set within the opening exchanges. Robin Copeland barreling into Scarlets defensive cover early doors with such velocity that second row Cummins (not in a low position to tackle) had to retire due to concussion. His withdrawal prompted a pause in play much to the annoyance of the locals as Connacht Rugby were looking threatening with ball in hand but player welfare is paramount and Cummins safely got off the pitch for much needed medical attention.
Connacht Rugby’s early start was excellent; solid clear out work allowing Marmion and Carty to orchestrate their back line. Bundee Aki was a constant menace for the hosts as Scarlets defensively could not handle the Irish international with his marauding ball carries. Aki’s line break early doors breaking the Scarlets defensive line and good work from Tom Farrell with an intelligent supporting run to receive the offload for an easy try on four minutes.
7-0. Connacht failed to deal with the subsequent restart and a quick penalty concession was duly slotted over by Leigh Halfpenny. Connacht Rugby responded with a Carty penalty after fine work from the pack where Quinn Roux and Finlay Bealham were leading by example. Halfpenny then slotted over a long range penalty to narrow the gap to four points. 10-6.
Scarlets were struggling to contain the ball carries and clear out work of the hosts as Butler, Copeland and O’Brien were doing a splendid job. Further inventive play from Connacht Rugby seen with Jack Carty executing a superb pass to Cian Kelleher to gallop clear for an emphatic second try.
Carty’s game management to the fore on the try, duping two Scarlets defensive players into misreads. Kelleher was never going to be caught; another keynote cameo from the wing.
The Achilles heel of Connacht Rugby last season was their inability to protect leads after scoring themselves and so it proved again as Scarlets took advantage of hesitant exit strategy to expose the hosts stretched cover defense for Johnny McNicholl to smartly step inside to score unopposed. Scarlets back in the game as Halfpenny added the extras. 17-13.
The closing exchanges of the half saw Connacht Rugby presented with an additional penalty opportunity as Scarlets were pinged by Mitrea. Carty hitting a superb kick from the touch line to open the gap to seven points. An exciting half of rugby that the hosts will have felt should have yielded a bigger score margin.
The third quarter of this contest was tit for tat. Both sides enjoyed initially forays but it was the hosts who yet again were forcing the issue without little reward in the scoreboard stakes. Ultan Dillane was unlucky to cough up ball just on the Scarlets line after several impressive phases of Connacht Rugby play. The lack of points on the board looked for the locals all the world of the third quarter against Glasgow Warriors.
However, the start of the fourth quarter yielded points. Carty was lights out off the tee. 7/7 during the contest and he slotted home a sixty-second minute penalty as Scarlets high tackle count was starting to yield penalties. 23-13 suddenly went to 26-13 as Connacht Rugby won another penalty from the scrum.
This score sparked Scarlets into life and Tom Prydie touched down after Connacht Rugby were yet again caught out in their cover defense. Patchell slotted over the conversion and the game was back in the melting pot. 26-20 with eight minutes left. Cue home fan nerves to see if their side could close out the contest.
By this stage, Blade had come on for the industrious Marmion. Blade’s cameo was brief but significant as his tigerish breakdown work won the ball back for the hosts in midfield. Sean O’Brien was on hand to produce another significant ball carry and his awareness of Niyi Adeolokun saw a superb offload for the substitute wing to run in for the game winning score.
The roar from the Clan Terrace spoke volumes; the game was secured and a keynote win over Scarlets who despite missing a couple of first team starters were a serious outfit to defeat.
Connacht Rugby desperately needed a performance like this to ignite their season properly. Yes, there was the fine preseason but this specific home league win against one of the teams that will be challenging for Guinness Pro 14 honors will do wonders for the morale and confidence of the playing group and management of the team.
The game plan is still a work in progress but let us be quite clear; there were subtle areas of note. Carty’s attacking option execution has progressively improved even in this early part of the season. The decision to deploy the back three to the restarts has improved (if not fully) addressed this facet of play. The running lines of Dave Heffernan, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy were deliberate and well coached.
Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell in the three quarters were majestic on the day. Aki’s physicality in attack and on defense is such a threat for opposition and Farrell’s ability to pick running lines to create line breaks is so encouraging to see. Farrell for me is a center that should be looking to push late for Ireland RWC 2019 inclusion; he has all the attributes for the test match arena. His progression this season is immense.
It would be remiss if we did not applaud the efforts of the front five on duty and the back row for Connacht Rugby. Finlay Bealham and Denis Buckley were superb in the scrum exchanges; were the dominant unit throughout. Dave Heffernan at hooker continues to grow into the role and his mobility and ball carrying were on point.
The early withdrawal of Gavin Thornbury was a blow but credit Ultan Dillane for his cameo; did not shirk his responsibilities and ably assisted Quinn Roux who was a monster throughout. His tackle count was strong (11) and was always looking to upset Scarlets attacking play.
Robin Copeland is going to be such a good signing for Connacht Rugby this season; his experience and nous there for all to see yesterday. His nuisance factor at ruck time, his decision making to leave a ruck gave Connacht Rugby defense that extra second to regroup. O’Brien and Butler cameos were accurate throughout; negated the Scarlets back row threat and their defensive was rock solid.
A serious win for Connacht Rugby. The month of champions has ignited around the Sportsgrounds just in time for Leinster Rugby to arrive into town next weekend in a fixture which has all the hallmarks to be a classic. I cannot wait!
A successful 100% win South African tour for Glasgow Warriors should be secured with a bonus point try win over the hosts who have shown resiliency but ultimately have being outgunned in the pack and skill set department. Glasgow Warriors have rotated their squad around for this fixture, still look strong enough to win this contest. Seymour set to have a keynote game.
Connacht Rugby vs. Scarlets
A fixture which I am looking forward to. It is a must win for Connacht Rugby after a road loss to Edinburgh Rugby last weekend; discipline and pack platform must improve for the hosts to upset Scarlets who will look to consolidate their solid start to the season. Connacht Rugby welcome Robin Copeland into the pack and with several Scarlets first team regulars out of this fixture, is this a potential game which Connacht Rugby can win? Connacht to win only if they produce a smart, disciplined game plan performance; otherwise Scarlets could run riot out wide. Slight edge to Connacht Rugby as the weather improves here on the Irish West Coast.
Dragons vs. Zebre Rugby
A key game for the Dragons and the long term managerial tenure ambitions of Bernard Jackman. Dragons have looked well exposed this season; their loss to Leinster Rugby was tough to watch as Leinster Rugby systematically broke Dragons defensive system to shreds. Zebre Rugby will arrive to Rodney Parade in good confidence; a superb late win over Cardiff Blues last weekend at home the standout performance last week. Zebre Rugby will realize that their discipline and fundamental set piece execution have to be on point and provided that they are not far behind at the interval should win this contest in a close, tense affair. Dragons to win need to drastically improve and I do not see the improvement required for this game in just seven days!
Leinster Rugby vs. Edinburgh Rugby
The standout fixture this weekend until I saw the Edinburgh Rugby team lineup; several pack first team regulars missing and with a strong Leinster Rugby team announced, can only see one winner. Edinburgh will look to restrict quick Leinster Rugby ruck ball but to be honest, Leinster Rugby are so good in changing the focus of attack that the pack may score a couple of tries from mauls. Leinster Rugby with a late bonus point try win.
Ospreys vs. Benetton Rugby
A tricky fixture for Ospreys to negotiate today as Benetton Rugby with fourteen players scored four tries on the road to the Scarlets last weekend. Ospreys must be careful when they look to become expansive. Ospreys should have their first team regulars back and that could be decisive in the final outcome. Benetton Rugby will show well again but I think Wyn Jones, Tipuric, North and Williams’ cameos if selected will steer the hosts home.
On my preview of this fixture this week, (http://hawkeyesidekick.com/2018/09/guinness-pro-14-round-four-friday-night-fixtures) I had commented that Cardiff Blues were not a 0/3 team heading into the fixture. They would have felt that all three games slipped away due to discipline and defensive lapses. Cardiff Blues were in a back against the wall scenario; a loss here and the Guinness Pro 14 playoff ambitions would be seriously undermined. Munster Rugby were warned but quite frankly were blown away a side whose work rate at the breakdown, sparkling running game were to the fore.
Dominant Cardiff Blues
The scoreline rather flatters Munster Rugby if truth be told. Cardiff Blues winger Lane thought he was over in the opening period only to be pinged back for a block leading up to the score, a tough harsh.
The hosts were the dominant side in the set piece; the line out was an unmitigated nightmare for Munster Rugby; over throws, throws not straight, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong which then saw issues at scrum time as Arhip started to impose his presence on proceedings.
The breakdown was crisp in its execution from Cardiff Blues; quick ruck ball to allow the half backs to launch their exciting back line. Munster Rugby tried to stem the quick ball but it was a forlorn effort as the likes of Turnbull, Williams and Navidi had the edge all night.
Munster Rugby had moments of brilliance from Carbery and Conway to score two quality team tries in the opening period to keep the Irish province in touch but the second half was a no contest as Cardiff Blues exposed more defensive decision making and yet more unforced errors in set piece and open play.
Munster Rugby – Skill Set Issue?
The result is concerning for Munster Rugby but what is of more concern is that the skill set across the side looks well short when faced against a decent starting lineup. Let us forget the Toyota Cheetahs and Ospreys (B team selection), two non-event fixtures. When it has being put up to Munster Rugby against Glasgow Warriors and Cardiff Blues on the road, the side have being lacking in execution, creating a pack platform and general one dimensional attacking play.
The Cardiff Blues tries will be horror viewing for Munster Rugby; too many easy meters gained on first phase possession. Halaholo will rarely have a better night all season; his statistics when published are going to be huge. Mike Sherry struggled all night long as he was grasping into thin air on Halaholo in midfield which led to an easy forty meter gain. The quick ball that followed saw Nick Williams crash over, exposing Sherry in the defensive line to score the opening try.
Munster Rugby did respond with two standout moments. Cloete steal in the breakdown on the touch line allowing Conway to advance with ball in hand, a deft kick in behind to negate Anscombe saw the Irish winger score in the corner.
Carbery was integral to the second try; a good aerial take and the fly-half was off on an excellent run. Tadhg Beirne’s role in the try cannot be underestimated; his effort to get in with play key when the ball was held short of Cardiff Blues’ line. The ball finally got back to Carbery and good work from Cloete to create a defensive misread inside for Conway to score in the corner again. Two tricky conversions missed but Munster Rugby were showing intent at last.
Halaholo right foot step again exposing Munster defensively (where was the tactical preparation on the player) to provide more easy gain line meters three minutes. Halaholo’s awareness to see the ever alert Tomos Williams to score with ease; great support running from the scrum half who with a dominant pack was the superior nine on the night.
The second half presumably would have seen Munster Rugby making the necessary adjustments but a key stop by the hosts in the third quarter on their line signaled the end of the Munster Rugby fightback. Halaholo scoring a well deserved try; lead up to the try saw Jaco Taute caught defensively outside and with non-existent Munster Rugby defensive support out wide, the try was a procession.
Munster Rugby huffed and puffed but it was getting all very one dimensional; one out ball carries and then forcing passes which went forward more times than not. The composure from Munster Rugby was surprisingly lacking considering the personnel on show; a reality check for all concerned.
Cardiff Blues deserved their bonus point and it came at the death with Tomos Williams benefiting from more good work from the hosts pack, making easy yards down the middle. The quick ruck ball exposing Munster Rugby defensively and Williams crashed over. Cue the home celebrations!
Munster Rugby Not In Crisis Yet
Munster Rugby crisis, probably not yet but the warning signs from yet another below par road trip performance has to be a concern for Munster Rugby management.
The set piece will be pinpointed by opposition in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, Mike Sherry is going to have to front up on the video analysis on Monday; a game to forget and with Rhys Marshall and Niall Scannell chipping at the bit to get game time, game time for Sherry looks quite limited.
The lack of skill set and unforced errors across the side will be horrific viewing; hopefully this performance will be a watershed for Munster Rugby, otherwise with two Irish provincial derbies coming up, morale may take a pounding ahead of the Heineken Cup competition next month.
Well done Cardiff Blues; thoroughly deserved victory and this is the platform hopefully for them to launch their season back on track. Turnbull was outstanding throughout and with an exciting back line (Harries impressive), a lot to be positive about if you are a Cardiff Blues fan today!
The Irish provinces apart from Connacht Rugby had big blowout wins last weekend in Guinness Pro 14 action; spotlight this week is on the starting player statistics for Connacht Rugby who lost 17-10 away to Edinburgh Rugby.
A game where indiscipline surfaced (16 penalties leaked, 11 of which in the opening period) and a yellow card for Jarrad Butler. Hawkeye Sidekick reviews some of the key number for the starting lineup which tell the tale on the game.
This statistic out of the rest shows how under the cosh Connacht Rugby were particularly in this contest. All starting lineup players put in a massive effort defensively and the tackle count (121) really does show in spades in this statistic.
Paul Boyle led the way with a whooping fifteen tackles during the contest; his work rate and performance levels have being a key positive for the province this season.
Connacht Rugby were on the back foot until the final quarter when field position started to improve due to improved discipline around the breakdown thus not coughing up needless penalties. As a result, the danger runners for Connacht Rugby got in on the action but it was too little too late in terms of salvaging the result.
Matt Healy topped the chart with sixty meters coming off only five carries; impressive stats. Paul Boyle again prominent in this statistic along with players you would expect to be up in this category such as Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adelokun and Eoin Griffin.
This is a compelling statistic as it shows from a team dynamic how expansive the side were, whether the side struggled to create the platform required to execute a fluid, efficient passing game throughout the team. The half backs numbers are low; indication of the dominance that Edinburgh Rugby enjoyed in the first hour of this contest. The back line emergence in the last quarter seen with the numbers of O’Halloran, Godwin and Griffin to make things happen for the outside backs late on.
If Connacht Rugby lose the territory battle like they did against Edinburgh Rugby last week, it is going to be a tough afternoon tomorrow against the Scarlets. Solid discipline, pack cohesion on the set piece are required. Defensive improvements certainly with only the concession of seventeen points last week in the midst of waves of Edinburgh Rugby attacks but there are areas that need to be worked on and hopefully Connacht Rugby will deliver a far more accurate performance in the Sportsgrounds tomorrow.
Hawkeye Sidekick after a meh round four (47 points) performance is under the cosh. The Hail Mary / Toca Me selection of Calvert Lewin last week got what it deserved; absolutely nothing. It is time to move the deck chairs and tables around this FPL selection in attack hoping for some more points from all three attackers.
Ederson continues in goal; seven points last week was a superb return, do not see any other keeper in my side (infamous last words).
The back three continues as last week. Alexander-Arnold continues to worry me, think his club colleague Robertson is the option going forward but will give it another week. Azpilicueta is a solid pick; will pick up clean sheets throughout the season.
The fixture list last week conspired a bit but expecting better from the midfield selected. Southampton are primed for a thumping and Mane and Salah should get sufficient chances to score and provide assists. Mane gets into so many great positions; if he only converted half those opportunities, jackpot time. Neves has being quiet in recent weeks but Wolves are so easy on the eye that they could upset Manchester United so retain him in the side.
Sergio continues to produce superb numbers; fourteen points last week was just desserts and a trip to Cardiff City who look incapable of keeping a clean sheet bodes well. Zaha got off the turf and slayed Huddersfield Town last week on the road; seven points tally and with Newcastle at home, hopes are high for another good day out for Mr. Crystal Palace.
The Hawkeye Sidekick change or others will perceive as the ‘throw it on the team and sees if it sticks selection’ is my new best friend Mitrovic; he has had a promising start to the season with a couple of goals for club and country and I think a Watford team who lost last week may be a good pick. Watford after a strong start have a serious test of attitude this week and Fulham may be the benefactors. Mitrovic hopefully picks up the goals for the Craven Cottage outfit or he will be out on his ear (Barry Fry management 101). Fingers crossed for this week!
Round four of the Guinness Pro 14 has two Friday night fixtures on the books. Ulster Rugby conclude their South African tour with a fixture against the Toyota Cheetahs while Munster Rugby must negotiate a tricky banana skin road trip fixture at Cardiff Blues. Hawkeye Sidekick casts his eye on both games.
Ulster Rugby look to continue their winning ways
Ulster Rugby will look to build on the good second half performance against Isuzu Southern Kings and secure another win in the competition. They face a Toyota Cheetahs side devastated by key personnel departures in the off-season as well as key injuries to the current squad. Mohoje long term knee injury is a massive loss and the hosts here look incredibly vulnerable.
Yet another crushing defeat for the Toyota Cheetahs last weekend as Glasgow Warriors skill set and attacking lines were too much for the hosts who have now leaked a worrying 136 points from three games. One could argue that Munster Rugby, Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors are going to be at the business end of the season but defensive gaps and lapses have being alarming so far particularly in the third and fourth quarter of games so far; no quick fix.
Ulster Rugby have made a couple of personnel changes for this fixture. Shanahan gets a chance to impress at scrum-half due to the absence of John Cooney. Will Addison returns to the full back slot. Herbst, O’Sullivan, Rea and Kernohan all get valuable game time.
The key battle in this contest will be the front five battle. Can Toyota Cheetahs bully Ulster Rugby in the set piece? If they can, the hosts could have a chance but Ulster Rugby should win provided that they remain patient in their execution and phases with an exciting back line on hand to expose a fragile Cheetahs defensive confidence.
Verdict: Ulster Rugby
After a competitive opening half, expect Ulster Rugby to stride out to another win. The altitude factor will mean that Ulster Rugby win but without the bonus point try but if they can win at Bloemfontein, a minimum eight points return from their South African tour will be a fantastic return and start to the season. Addison to have a proverbial day.
Cardiff Blues in must win territory
It has being one strange start to the season for Cardiff Blues; three opening games where Cardiff Blues had the game in their grasp only to surrender the result in the closing exchanges as Leinster Rugby, Benetton Rugby and Zebre Rugby have all prospered from Cardiff Blues discipline and defensive lapses.
This is a side which are better than the 0/3 start to the season; several standout players in the ranks. The back line is stacked with physicality, pace and try scoring prowess. Anscombe slots into the full back spot, will look to use his kicking game to setup a platform.
Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo are an explosive three quarter combination. Scully and Harries provide the after burners and Harries try count has being a standout positive for the side this season so far.
The pack is stacked with talent with the likes of Arhip, Dacey, Turnbull, Navidi, Williams all featuring; a side well capable of turning a miserable start of the season around.
Munster Rugby come into this contest after an emphatic win over a massively under-strength Ospreys last week. A game which saw the talent of Carbery and Beirne to the maximum but both players will realize that a road trip assignment to Cardiff Blues is a different proposition entirely.
The Munster Rugby side has an exciting feel; an opening look at CJ Stander who slots into the eight channel. He links up with Cleote and O’Mahony in the back row which should see some keynote exchanges with Navidi, Jenkins and the marauding Nick Williams.
The half back partnership will be interesting to see. Evans at ten is a standout; great ball player whose ability to create with ball in hand and solid kick game makes him a standout threat for the Irish province. Duncan Williams needs to speed up his distribution from set piece and ruck ball to allow Joey Carbery to shine with ball in hand.
Pleasing to see Jaco Taute back in the three quarters; an intense welcome from Lee-Lo beckons and JJ Hanrahan comes into the full back position looking to prove a point after a miserable Glasgow Warriors outing in round two. The wing play of Sweetnam and Conway should be prominent provided Munster Rugby pack enjoy good periods of dominance.
Verdict: Munster Rugby
Like the look of this Munster Rugby side and this will be a serious test against a Cardiff Blues side who will provide seriously tricky moments. Cardiff Blues performance lapse deep into games could be exposed yet again in this round and I think Munster Rugby have the sufficient talent to get over the line by three points. Cardiff Blues left to rue more good moments in a game with minimal return.